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THE GENESYS PROGRAM SKELETON CREW

HT AARON


This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is entirely coincidental. Copyright © 2018, by HT Aaron This free sample is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercialNoDerivatives 4.0 International License. You may share this work in any format or medium you wish, as long as this document is not altered. You may not use this free sample for any commercial purposes. If you remix, transform, or build upon this free sample, you may not distribute the modified material. In the event of conflict between this paragraph and the license, the Creative Commons license takes precedence. Cover night-sky background image (cropped original, no changes) from: “The Milky Way” panorama. Credit: ESO/S. Brunier. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0).



CONTENTS Ground Zero ...................................................................................................................2


Ground Zero The g-force pinned me into the seat as we soared, one last time, for the stars. I glared at the escape hatch, determined to (using willpower alone) prevent it from opening. It held tight. Straight ahead, through the cockpit’s windows, treetops cut jagged black across the fiery evening sky. We were falling now, weightless. Beep-beep, beep-beep, beep-beep. “Timer—” Splash. Gushing and hissing enveloped our craft. Jingles exploded around us. Young grabbed a red-striped U-handle from the overhead console and pulled down. Hard. POW! The drogue chute (our brakes) caught wind a moment later. The whiplash followed. Below, a gut-ripping crunch replaced the gush. We were beached now, skidding. The orca’s (as our escape plane was known) belly, scraping across the earth. Soon, I figured, mine would be too. I shuddered at the thought and squeezed the seat harder. Through the cockpit’s mud-streaked windshield I saw the dark woods closing in like a Jurassic monster, ready to swallow us whole. Then we stopped. *** Paralyzed by our unexpected survival, I found myself staring at the oxygen masks swinging back and forth like dead men from the gallows. I took a shallow breath. Then another, deeper. There was nothing to worry about, I decided; my death-by-fireball fears were movie relics. “Crew, initiate non-emergency exit protocol!” Captain Young said, unbuckling. Such formality, here in our battered sweat box, seemed like overkill. But the alternatives were slim and Roger had been born a by-the-book guy. (He would surely die one as well and there was no point in trying to change him somewhere in between.) “Ethan, zero starboard hatch screws,” he said, knees on seat. “I’ll take port side. Egress order’s first-in, first-out: I’ll lead the way, followed by Ethan then Lara. Rip— you’re last in, you’re last out. Secure and drop the ladder starboard before you slide; you know the drill. If you need help, signal. Rendezvous with me on the outside. Any questions?” “Last in, last out—got it,” I said, nodding. “Make it snappy and we’ll be home for supper.” “Earpieces?” Lara asked. “Stow ‘em,” Young replied. “Need I remind you, our bean counters moonlight as cartel hitmen. Which means we’ll have to account for every rivet right after they smack us around for ignoring our timesheets.” “You think they’ll notice anything missing?” “Not if we don’t give ‘em any ideas.” “All finished over here,” Ethan said, ticking the rear starboard wheel into position.


“One moment,” Young said, turning the rear port-side wheel. “Port screws zero. Ready starboard?” “Check,” Ethan responded. “Let’s do it.” Young pulled a ceiling emergency lever—the yellow one we called the “pencil”—to crack the skylight hatch’s seal. A hiss, like a soda can’s pop-top, greeted us as the piney air rushed in. “Push up,” Young said, raising the hatch a hair. Ethan, using both hands, pushed up from the starboard seat. “Take it easy, you don’t have to force it,” Young said. But the escape hatch was proving more stubborn than a crusty mule and Roger’s feathery touch was to little effect. Screw it. He set his hands directly across from Ethan’s and wiggled the hatch. Loosened, it retracted. The thermal blanket (our emergency slide) came easier. With Ethan’s help, Young extracted it from a tubular storage bin above their seats, set its hooks on the open hatch’s front edge, and unrolled it down the orca’s nose. He gave it a quick once-over and, satisfied that he wouldn’t be grilled alive on the orca’s sizzling skin, wiggled out. Krole slithered after him. Lara stood, then strode towards the cockpit. “What about the vault?” I asked. “Leave it,” she said. “Safer in here, don’t you think?” She was right. “Need any help?” “I got it,” she said. “You’re the one we need to worry about. Can you make it?” “I’m feeling a little better. Still parched, though.” “Hold on, that reminds me. There’re water filters in the locker,” she said, pausing. She came back and opened the starboard wall’s emergency locker. “Wow! Goodies. Oh, and the ladder,” she said, tossing me an orange tent bag marked COCKPIT ACCESS in black stencil. She grabbed a hiker’s water filter and a widemouth Nalgene bottle, then headed for the cockpit again. A moment later, she pulled up and out. Close behind her, I climbed onto the captain’s chair and stood up. Wow! We were home. Focus. One last mission. Turning right, I clipped the ladder’s metal hooks to the hatch’s starboard side, ripped the velcro, and tossed the bag. It hit the ground with a clinking thud. Mission complete. I hoisted through the hatch and slid down the nose, to ground zero.

The Genesys Program - Chapter 3  

A shuttle crew’s murder sucks an astronaut into an Internet billionaire’s sinister conspiracy to hide a biotech experiment gone rogue.

The Genesys Program - Chapter 3  

A shuttle crew’s murder sucks an astronaut into an Internet billionaire’s sinister conspiracy to hide a biotech experiment gone rogue.

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